January 16, 2013 by Anders Ingemarson
Let’s continue our foray into food from last week. A new year is upon us and with it the proverbial intentions to eat less and eat better: cut out that morning donut, skip the afternoon Snickers bar, eat more of the right fruits and vegetables, migrate from Omega 6 to Omega 3, maybe go organic. There is no shortage of options for the resolution minded.
The science of nutrition is still, if not in its infancy, then in its “terrible twos.” Theories abound, but conclusive evidence is scant, seemingly making yesterday’s truths today’s falsehoods and vice versa. Eggs went from god-sent to deviled, only to be blessed anew of late. To salt or not to salt? We thought we knew the answer, but new hypotheses are stating that salt may be the salt of the earth after all. Fat, forever turned rancid, has found new life in its Omega 3 variety. And carbs, especially the grainy sorts, are coming under scrutiny after having been the darlings of dietitians for decades.
Much of this is simply the nature of scientific progress. There’s no denying that it’s frustrating for you and me trying to figure out how to live a healthy life here and now. But we can rest assured that if left free to pursue the truth scientists will little by little, and occasionally in leaps and bounds, add to our store of nutritional knowledge.
However, “if left free to pursue the truth” is a big “if.” Nutritional scientific progress is and has been under attack for more than 100 years. The main culprit? The “Farm Lobby,” the unholy alliance of agriculture and food industry cronies, of politicians, of government bureaucrats and scientists at the USDA, the FDA, and numerous other agencies, and of government funded scientists at many of our universities.
I’m not opposed to farmers, “big agro”, “big food” and scientists. On the contrary, I admire and applaud free market entrepreneurship, big business efforts, and scientific progress in agriculture and food as in any other industry. But I am against the Farm Lobby violating your and my individual rights by forcing us to pay for government funded, often questionable, science.
Separating state and agriculture and food related research solves the problem. Let the marketplace determine what science is worthwhile funding and pursuing without violating anybody’s rights. Flawed science doesn’t last long absent government connections and funding. The rational self-interest of investors won’t allow it. Look at the technology venture capital and angel investment communities for examples of self-interest in action. Yes, investors make mistakes, but they’re quick to cut their losses if a theory doesn’t pan out in practice. Putting your own money on the line tends to sharpen the senses.
Contrast this with the flawed hypotheses promoted by government funded scientists trying to force their square-plugged theories into the round-hole of reality; few free market investors would fall for their snake-oil sales pitch, and those who did wouldn’t last long. Science cronies only survive and thrive on political connections and government funding, a.k.a. your tax dollars. Read Gary Taubes’ “Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs, and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health” for the fascinating story of how fats were vilified and carbs became the heroes to the detriment of the health of millions of Americans, mainly thanks to government funded science zealotry.
No, I’m not claiming that all government funded scientists are zealots and cronies, far from it. But that is not a reason for forcing the rest of us to pay their way. And those who are truly good at what they’re doing will survive and thrive better than ever in the free marketplace of food and agriculture scientific research.
Let’s get the government out of nutritional research. It will restore our rights and we’ll all be healthier for it.